As the world’s population ages, baby food pioneer Nestlé wants to cash in a new growth market—the elderly



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There’s no running away from the demographic change. A large chunk of the global population will hit their senior years in the coming decades, with the number of people aged 60 years and above doubling between 2020 and 2050.  

As alarming as population aging may be for economic growth and public finances, it presents an opportunity for Swiss food and nutrition conglomerate Nestlé. 

The company, whose founder invented the first form of infant formula, is now prioritizing products for the elderly.      

“The 50+ age group in most countries around the world is going to increase significantly over the next 10 to 20 years,” Nestlé’s CEO Mark Schneider told the Financial Times. “With that, and with the specific nutritional needs of that age group, there is an opportunity for us.” 

Advancements in science and technology, along with economic development taking billions out of poverty, are leading to longer life expectancy across most of the world. At the same time, many developed countries are suffering from staggeringly low birth rates—Italy’s births have dropped for 15 consecutive years now, while Finland’s aging population has been growing rapidly.  

To keep up with these parallel trends, Nestlé’s Health Science division wants to offer more supplements that cater to the different consumption patterns of older people, including the need to age healthily, for example by maintaining their weight or curbing blood sugar levels. 

Keeping up with the population

Shifting demographic trends have already begun to impact Nestlé’s business. For instance, the company closed one of its baby formula plants in China last year, citing plunging birth rates hurting demand for infant nutrition products.

Baby food is still big business for Nestlé—the company has a long and complex history in this segment, which accounted for roughly 15% of its profits in 2023—but such occurrences are only likely to become more common as the number of babies declines in more and more countries.

Nonetheless, Schneider said the company’s growing interest in the elderly does not come at the expense of its baby food arm.

“We’re not walking away from what we got started on, which is infant nutrition,” he said. 

“But we do see that in most economies around the world, the bigger demographic opportunity is among the middle-aged and elderly.”

Nestlé has been affected by emerging trends beyond demographics, such as the meteoric rise of weight-loss drugs. To help it ride the tide, Nestlé recently launched a new line of packed foods called Vital Pursuit, which it says can support the needs of those taking appetite-suppressing medication through portion control and better nutritional balance.

That’s a case of having to adapt to a suddenly different reality, which can be a dangerous time for established businesses. A gradually aging population, on the other hand—while alarming for economists—at least gives companies like Nestlé plenty of advanced warning. No matter what happens in the next few years, you can be pretty sure the world isn’t getting any younger.

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